From an Empty Nest to Our Nest



I’ve never liked the term empty nest. It seems to imply someone who is sad and lonely and unable to move on. In reality having our nest begin to empty can be a time of increased freedom and better relationships with our emerging adult children.

Living on a farm, I do have a real affinity for a nest. We, just like birds, spend an incredible amount of energy creating a space to birth and raise our babies and like birds we occasionally have to remind one when it’s time to go with a nudge. Unlike birds, we do not have to abandon our nest after the babies have flown. We can redesign and feather it in sometimes surprising ways to hold and nurture us and the returning young adults on holidays and family time. Our nest can become an incubator for thinking deeply about how to use our gifts and talents to be useful in the world. It can be a spot of hospitality and gathering place of old and new friends. A place to pick up hobbies and interests we may not have had time for when we were busy with full time parenting. (more…)

Tips for Successfully Mastering Online College Classes

For some of us an online college class can be a confusing and overwhelming set of expectations involving reading, assignments including the dreaded discussion boards and writing essays or papers and tests. It can sometimes be difficult to set up a schedule and know where to start. This article offers you some ideas to make online learning a little easier.

Let’s start with organizing our space, time and support for getting things done. It really is true that if you work in a space intended for work you can get into work mode more quickly and stay in work mode longer.

Once you’ve decided on a flat space for your laptop set up a Google calendar if you don’t have one. By putting every deadline from your syllabus onto your Google calendar you force yourself to read it. Set reminders that automatically sync to your phone 24 hours in advance of deadlines.

Next ask a friend to look over your calendar, syllabus and discussion board rules to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Add the discussion board’s required posts to your calendar to create a steady routine. For example, if you are required to post three times per week, put it on your calendar for Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week.

Create a loose schedule for yourself setting aside 2 hour work sessions daily Monday – Friday to complete your work. Give yourself at least an hour of recovery time between work sessions. Most college classes require at least 2 hours per day during the semester and 4 hours per day in two 2 hour sessions for summer school. Spend an hour on Sundays planning exactly how you are going to spend your time during the study sessions. Ask yourself these questions when planning what to do during the 2 hour study sessions:

  • Have I read the material or watched the videos?
  • Have I taken notes on what I’ve read and watched?
  • Have I posted on the discussion boards as required?
  • Have I created a review for tests or started an outline for papers?

Now for support. Having the appropriate amount of support during online classes is the difference between enjoying the learning or having a lonely, boring experience that gets reduced to clerical work.

  • Use your campus resources: professor office hours, study groups and the writing center. These services are included in your tuition and fees and it is usually well worth your time spent to use them.
  • Utilize co-working sessions with fellow classmates, friends or www.focusmate.com.
  • If you are taking a class that you know is going to be academically difficult for you, arrange for tutoring at the same time you sign up for the class. Summer classes move very quickly and if you wait to see if you need it you may not be able to arrange the help you need to master the material.

Lastly and just as important is your mindset. When you limit your study sessions to two hour sessions you can mindfully approach the work by setting an intention to enjoy the work. When you put in the time at the beginning of each week to plan each study session you can start working immediately without spending time administratively figuring out what to do on a daily basis. Working diligently during the week with the goal of taking your weekends off can be very motivating. If you get off track and don’t stick with your schedule, don’t beat yourself up, just get back on track. You can use a couple hours on Sunday to get caught up.

Try all or some of these suggestions and see if your next online class might be one of your better ones. By approaching your learning with an open mind, a little organization and a willingness to ask for help, you will be well on your way to enjoying your learning and being happy with your results.

Co-working Sessions

Co-working sessions are intentional, timed working sessions executed either with one other person or a group of people.  They are easy to arrange and are one of the best ways to both increase motivation and focus and combat the confusion and loneliness that often accompany working alone.

Co-working sessions can be done in person or online. Meeting online is especially beneficial now as social distancing prevents them from meeting face to face and if they are doing online course work that requires an ability to initiate work sessions independently.

You can set up your own co-working sessions in person or on Zoom, Skype or even FaceTime. You can also try www.focusmate.com which is a community of people from all over the world who co-work online together. You can get three free sessions per week and you are able to schedule around the clock.

Co-working is the kind of experience you don’t really understand until you try it. If you have a healthy skepticism about it or feel a little shy to work with someone in silence that you may not know, it’s ok to start by asking friends to join you. As you gain experience and start to feel more comfortable you can branch out to working with strangers. The quality of accountability is well worth the discomfort inherent in the learning curve.

Co-working session’s duration can range between thirty minutes to three hours. Most of the co-working sessions I have participated in have lasted sixty minutes. You may want to consider a stretch or bathroom break every thirty minutes to prevent burn out. Some people find the two hour sessions most helpful when they have difficulty initiating tasks.

Co-working provides numerous benefits to those that utilize it, including:

  • increased energy and focus through verbalization of goals
  • relief of difficulties such as loneliness
  • sense of urgency and relevance to the work at hand thanks to the limited time of the session
  • reduced distraction by defining the work space and time
  • emotional accountability
  • strong sense of accomplishment
  • someone to celebrate the accomplishment with

Here is how to set up a co-working session:

  • Arrange with others to meet online to work together. Common ways to meet are Zoom, Skype or FaceTime.
  • The session starts with a quick greeting and a verbal share of what you hope to accomplish together in the agreed upon time.
  • Then you work together in silence for the agreed upon time.
  • At the end of your agreed upon time, you share with your coworkers how much you accomplished.

Co-working sessions are easy to arrange and emotionally difficult for some to get started with, but if you push past your initial discomfort, you can benefit many rewards of increased motivation and higher levels of focused productivity.

Preventing Burnout in College Students

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when one feels overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Many of my students feel this way from the chronic stress of managing university studies, independent living along with any executive skill weaknesses or mental health issues they have as well. 

Three main signs of burnout:

  • Exhaustion: People feel drained, emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and blue. Sometimes they feel tired and wired. An experience of feeling exhausted but unable to get a good night of sleep. Physical symptoms include headaches, stomach and/or bowel problems.

 

  • Avoidance of school, work or social opportunities: People who have burnout find their work life  increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may have difficulty initiating independent study times or projects. They may begin to skip class in order to do something else or sleep. They may begin socially isolating and not feeling like socialization is worth the effort.

 

  • Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for themselves. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.

 

One of the biggest surprises people have when they engage in ADHD coaching is the strong emphasis I place on recovery time. I recommend to everyone I work with to take a minimum one day off a week to completely disengage from work and school to decompress and engage in something enjoyable. I recommend taking the entire spring break off to completely rejuvenate and come back stronger and more motivated to finish the rest of the semester strong. When students don’t take time off intentionally, I find they take it off unconsciously by not going to class or doing enough to stay caught up. Taking the time intentionally will prevent a late semester crisis and catch up.

There are many ways to intentionally restore your motivation and energy. Three categories of recovery I have observed are consuming entertainment, low energy past times and high energy fun. All three activities will help you recover from burnout, but when possible, plan at least 1 high energy fun per week and 2-3 during a vacation. Those activities give you the quickest recovery for the longest time.

Consuming Entertainment – this is the lowest energy and most passive category. It can help you transition from a stressful day to true rest. More than 3-4 hours at a sitting can lead to being lulled into a very lazy feeling where it feels as if your brain is going to sleep. When done for prolonged periods, consuming entertainment can cause one to get their days and nights flipped by staying up all night and sleeping most of the day. These activities include:

  • TV series binges
  • surfing the web
  • playing single player video games
  • reading

Low Energy Past Times – these can replenish your energy especially if one of the activities is of high interest to you or if you don’t have the energy for a higher energy activity. These include:

  • Listening to music
  • Hanging out with friends and family in person
  • Shopping
  • Eating out
  • Playing multi-person video games
  • Doing Puzzles
  • Fishing

High Energy Activities – these activities require more intense energy and leave you with an experience of “that was fun!” It requires more effort or novelty than the other categories. If it raises your heart rate and causes you to sweat, it’s a bonus for the payoff of increased energy, focus and motivation. These activities include:

  • Exploring a new city, town or country
  • Ski-ing (either snow or water)
  • Bowling
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Horseback riding
  • Playing Games of any kind

 

In our productivity oriented world, it can sometimes be counterintuitive to make intentional space in your life to play and rest. Give it a try, and see the difference after you’ve given yourself a break.